In a stunning success story of government efficiency, over one million people were evacuated to safety in anticipation of the brutal summer cyclone that hit the coast of one of India’s poorest states earlier this week.
Cyclone Fani hit the eastern state of Odisha on Friday with winds roaring at over 120 miles per hour. Though tropical storms are generally associated with devastating death tolls, the state’s emergency responders are being praised for the unprecedented speed of their response.
In a matter of days, government officials, volunteers, emergency workers, and media teams were able to evacuate 1.1 million low-income citizens from about 15,000 villages to shelter before the storm. Not only that, the shelters were stocked with food, water, supplies, and resources.
Despite Odisha being a coastal home to some of the country’s poorest families and citizens, the state’s quick response to the cyclone has reportedly resulted in only three reported casualties thus far.
“Few would have expected this kind of organizational efficiency,” Abhijit Singh, a former naval officer and head of the Maritime Policy Initiative at the Observer Research Foundation, told The New York Times. “It is a major success.”
“The government is usually dysfunctional in cases like this but the whole mobilization was quite impressive,” he added. “Evacuating a million people in three or four days and providing them with not just shelter but also food is a big achievement in such a short time.”
The Times goes on to say that state authorities have improved their emergency response plans as a result of having suffered far more devastating consequences from shoddy evacuation preparedness in the past; back in 1999, a supercyclone resulted in over 10,000 casualties across India.
Cyclone Fani is one of only three cyclones to have hit Odisha. Though the region must now recover from the damage caused by the storm, their loss of life is being hailed as a noteworthy cause for celebration.
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